This novel is a work of silent rebellion: the rebellion of Helen and of Anne herself, who destabilizes some of the Romantic point of views.
Helen can be considered a Byronic hero, as she is emotionally conflicted and she had a troubled and mysterious past.
She is intelligent and perceptive, but also self-critical, introspective and she struggles with integrity.
She imagines there must be only a very, very few men in the world, that she should like to marry and when she marries Arthur it is because she truly loves him.
She ought to be able to respected and honored the man she marries, but she is also determined to show him that her heart is not his slave, and she could live without him if she chooses.
From this point of view, she can be considered a feminist.
At first, she is so determined to love him—so intensely anxious to excuse his errors, that she is continually dwelling upon them, and laboring to extenuate the loosest of his principles, and the worst of his practices, till she is familiarized with vice, and almost a partaker in his sins.
But after some time, she is tired out with his injustice, his selfishness, and hopeless depravity. She comes to the conclusion that she was fool to dream that she had strength and purity enough to save herself and him.
She had struggled hard to hide his vices from every eye, and invest him with virtues he
never possessed and when she thinks how
fondly, how foolishly she has loved him, how madly she has trusted him, and how cruelly he has trampled on her love, betrayed her trust, scorned her prayers and tears, and efforts for his preservation, crushed her hopes, destroyed her youth’s best feelings, and doomed her to a life of hopeless misery—
as far as man can do it—it is not enough to say that she no longer loves her husband—SHE HATES him! The word stares her in the face
like a guilty confession, but it is true: she hates him.
She was a slave—a prisoner—but that is nothing; if it was herself alone, she would not complain, but her child must not be abandoned
to this corruption: better far that he should live in poverty and obscurity with a fugitive mother, than in luxury and affluence with
such a father.
And through her desperation, she writes a sort of social protest against drunkenness, of which her husband is a victim.
She also underlines some negative aspects of male thought embodied by her husband.
He is a man without self-restraint or lofty aspirations—a lover of pleasure, given up to animal enjoyments.
His notions of matrimonial duties and comforts are not her notions. Judging from appearances, his idea of a wife is a thing to love one devotedly and to stay at home—to wait upon her husband, and amuse him and minister to his comfort in every possible way, while he chooses to stay with her; and, when he is absent, to attend to his interests, domestic or otherwise, and patiently wait his return; no matter how he may be occupied in the meantime.
But in spite of everything, when Helen heards her husband was very ill and alone, she comes back to nurse him, showing her determination and her vision of life.
The same vision of the writer, who was the first woman to write about a wife who leaves her abusive husband and then she leads a happy and successful life.
I may have a new favourite Bronte! This book was everybit as wonderful as wuthering heights and so much better than Jane Eyre! I loved the writing style, it was very 19th century but light and easy to read. The plot was a simple (yet complicated and tragic) romance story but the characterisation was superb. They all felt very real.
Helen, despite her tendancy towards Christian moralising was one of the greatest women in literature I've come across. Beautiful, intelligent, fiercly independant and always able to speak her mind no matter the circumstances. I loved that she was arguing against enforced gender roles in the begining, when discussing how she should raise her son. That she kept to her own ideas of convention and morality. Even though she was very good I liked the fact that it was a morality she'd decided for herself, and not one that she accepted from society, but would fly in the face of society to do what she thought was right. I don't want to say more without giving too much away but I really loved her. Her speech at the end about the rose brought me to tears.
Even her husband was drawn with a great deal of sympathy and humanity. In Mrs Gaskell's biography of Charlotte I learned how their brother was a drunk and opium addict and he was the inspiration for Helen's husband. Even when Helen hated him when his behaviour was at his worst there was still a spark there that reminded you why he was likeable. He was so far from the charicature of a drunk and unfaithful husband that you read in other 19th century literature.
The minor characters also felt well fleshed out and believable. The incidents of drunkeness and romance, while not as shocking as they might have been back then, still felt very real and emotional.
I loved this book, I think it's one of the best I've read this year and I am looking forward to reading Agnes Grey....Continua
This is one of those books that I probably never would have picked up myself, but I'm so glad someone recommended it! The beginning was a bit slow, but once the "tenant of Wildfell Hall" began to tell her story in her own words, I was hooked. It was fascinating to see how different life was back then, and yet how little basic human nature has changed. I suppose there will always be those who are wild and crazy, those who are cruel and thoughtless, those who are strong and faithful, and those who are kind and gentle....Continua